Coronavirus in Colombia: April 3 update

Our regular roundup of COVID-19 cases.

In this update we ask: do you need a mask for coronavirus protection?
Coronavirus in Colombia: In this update we say: you do need a mask for coronavirus protection.

Key points on coronavirus in Colombia:

  • Slower increase in new cases, but deaths jump to 25
  • Bogotá still the focus with 587 cases
  • 26 departments now affected
COVID-19 confirmed cases to April 3. Source and graphic: INS Colombia
COVID-19 confirmed cases to April 3. Source and graphic: INS Colombia

Colombia’s COVID-19 cases seem to be still holding steady even as the viral disease skyrockets around the globe. Today’s stats from the Insituto Nacional de Salud (April 3) do show an increase in deaths – eight since our last Update two day’s ago – but a slight decrease in new cases, which number 202 in the last two days compared to 267 in the previous similar period.

Colombia's coronavirus curve is showing slight signs of flattening. Data: INS
Colombia’s coronavirus curve is showing slight signs of flattening. Data: INS

Comparison curve: Colombia v Italy

While we are far too early in the outbreak to draw concrete conclusions – and there can be gaps in the data collection – the graphs below show Colombia registering a lower rate of infection when compared with Italy and even South Korea, previously considered a success story for effective outbreak control.

It’s worth noting that case detection can lag behind actual infection by up to two weeks, and the death of a patient can also lag behind by another two weeks: Hence deaths can still rise even as cases start to slow down.

 COVID-19 cases in Colombia plotted against curves for Italy and South Korea. 
Sources: INS and Worldometer.
COVID-19 cases in Colombia plotted against curves for Italy and South Korea.
Sources: INS and Worldometer.
COVID-19 deaths in Colombia plotted against curves for Italy and South Korea.
Sources: INS and Worldometer.

Could the BCG jab protect Colombians?

As we’ve mentioned in previous updates, because of the silent spread of the virus there is increasing evidence that early adoption of mass quarantines can slow the outbreak by breaking the chain of infection.

Italy on began regional lockdowns after 200 deaths and 5,000 cases, the U.S. has 7,000 deaths and 270,000 cases – and some states still deciding to quarantine. In comparison Colombia implemented restrictions for much of the country early; before any recorded deaths and less than 200 cases confirmed.

Read all our coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in Colombia

But there might be another medical reason Colombia is seeing less coronavirus cases: BCG vaccinations. Since the early 1970s, around 80% of Colombians have routinely had the BCG anti-tuberculosis jab. And now scientists think it also protects against COVID-19.

A ray of hope? Or more coronavirus fake news?

A draft scientific paper by medical researchers in New York and posted online correlates high-BCG countries – those which historically mass vaccinated – with low COVID-19 cases. And in fact, the BCG has long been known to offer some protection against other respiratory illnesses.

And countries with no universal BCG policy are some of the hardest hit such as Italy and the U.S. So now human trials are now taking place around the world to see if the vaccine can ward off the coronavirus.

If it does work, then having widespread BCG coverage could help Colombians, though so far only those under 50 years young enough to have had the jab. Even then, less virus in the younger population can help prevent spread to the older.

The face mask debate reaches a conclusion

Back in Bogotá, a burning question for many is: should I be wearing a tapaboca? And is the embarrassment factor of looking like you just failed a casting call for ER offset by the slight chance it might protect you from coronavirus?

It’s fair to say that no single COVID-19 issue has divided the world’s experts more than this one.

Performances during quarantine: the show must go on

“STOP BUYING MASKS…they are NOT effective,” the US Surgeon general tweeted in February. And every day the internet brings a new twist: it spreads by air. It can’t be spread by air. It might be spread by air.

Then there is the theory that the amount of virus you ingest or breath in – the ‘initial dose’– can have an impact on how sick you get. Since smaller amounts of virus could mean less chance of dying, then barriers to reduce that initial dose – such as face masks – surely would help.

Now – six whole weeks after the Surgeon General’s directive – the Centre for Disease Control today announced that, yes, we should be wearing face masks.

The U.S. boffins came to this conclusion after three months of coronavirus research found that “the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity – for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing”.

To which most of us would say: No shit, Sherlock?.

Luckily, lots of us did figure it out earlier, and many people (and some countries) have taken the sensible precaution to use face masks, and if they can’t find them, make their own.

Squeezebox strategy

During a ten-minute walk to the shops in Teusaquillo today I noted more than 90% of people on the street were wearing face masks of some type, and according to social media some shops are now demanding people to wear one before entering.

Perhaps face masks will form part of the forthcoming “accordion strategy” announced by Colombian leadership this week.

Relax, it’s nothing to do with using Vallenato songs to scare away the bug, but rather a series of squeezing and then easing of quarantines to control localised outbreaks. Less lockdown but coronavirus control could be music to Colombia’s ears.


  1. A frontline nurse working in New York on coronavirus patients claims the city is killing sufferers by putting them on ventilators, advocating against them
    The nurse persuaded a friend, a nurse practitioner who is not working on coronavirus patients, to make the video to get the word out
    ‘It’s a horror movie. Not because of the disease, but the way it is being handled,’ the frontline nurse said through the friend, who only was identified as Sara NP
    Sara said COVID-19 patients are placed on ventilators rather than less invasive CPAP or BiPAP machines due to fears about the virus spreading
    She explained: ‘The ventilators have high pressure, which then causes barotrauma, it causes trauma to the lungs’
    More than 12,000 people have died from the virus in NYC, with another 4,300 dying in other parts of the Empire State
    New York emergency room doctor Cameron Kyle-Sidell stepped down this month because he didn’t want to follow the hospital’s ventilator protocol
    Republican Minnesota Senator Scott Jensen told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham that Medicare pays hospitals three times as much if patients are placed on ventilators

  2. BCG Doesn‘t protect against The Coronavirus Sars-CoV-2. But it may help the immune system, not getting a too severe form Of Covid-19. That is what scientists hope and are researching now.


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